By Manik Miazee
Eating deer meat has become a fashion for the tourists coming to this island which mainly provoke the local residents to kill deer.
More than four decades ago, the people of this realm were trusted with a sanctuary and one pair of endangered deer.
In 40 years, those two herbivores multiplied to nearly 20,000; but unfortunately, only to become hapless prey to the extreme greed of only a handful of local people who were trusted with keeping them safe in the first place.
Fishing is the main livelihood of around 20,000 residents of Nijhum Dwip - an island strip on the Bay of Bengal at the extreme south of Bangladesh that has recently become a tourist attraction.
It is not that all of a sudden these people have lost their livelihoods and started killing deer as an alternative means. Local residents said these beautiful animals were hunted down only to meet the demands of the tourists - mainly the local ones - for whom coming to Nijhum Dwip and eating deer meat has become a fashion.
Local residents alleged that with backing from the local government and the forest department, a group of poachers are rampantly killing deer in the island.
Joynal, a member of that group, shared his story with the Dhaka Tribune.
“Tourists and local influential people place demand before us for deer meet. We usually go inside the forest, set net traps for catching deer,” he narrated.
They usually charge Tk2,000 to Tk2,500 on an average for a deer.
Joynal said a total of five such groups as theirs had been involved with the poaching. Each of the groups have around 10 members. Zakir Sardar, Chad Miah, Joynal Miah, Farid Uddin and Babul are the leaders of those groups.
The local union parishad chairman and the forest officer blamed each other for being involved with the poaching.
Chairman Meraz Uddin told the Dhaka Tribune that a group of people kill the deer with support from a section of officials from the local forest office.
He also claimed that he had never been involved with the poaching.
Forest officer in Nijhum Dwip Md Zaber said: “Around 5,000 deer were killed when cyclone Aila hit the island in 2009.”
The officer accused the chairman of poaching deer and the cutting trees in the reserve forest.
“Several cases have already been filed on these charges. The accused in those cases include the chairman as well,” Zaber said.
Other side of the coin
On February 6, British tabloid Daily Mail published a photo story on its website on how a boy with hearing impairment from Nijhum Dwip risked his life to save a baby deer from drowning. That story created a huge buzz in international media and Nijhum Dwip got renewed attention from the local media as well.